Dept of Justice differs with Richard Bruton on Garda deal bill

The Department of Justice has differed with reported comments from the minister for education that it will have to foot the bill for the Garda Labour Court deal.

Dept of Justice differs with Richard Bruton on Garda deal bill

The department has told the Irish Examiner that the bill “will be the subject of discussions” with the Department of Public Expenditure regarding who should pay.

It comes amid concerns within Garda HQ that it will bear the brunt of the cost, which has been initially estimated by the Government to be more than €50m.

Earlier this week, Minister for Education Richard Bruton was reported as saying that the cost of the Garda Labour Court recommendation would have to come from within the existing resources of the Department of Justice — a stance said to be shared by several cabinet ministers.

But in a statement, the department said: “The full costs of the Labour Court settlement are being determined at present and how they will be funded will be the subject of discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.”

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald told the Dáil on Wednesday that the nature of the recommendation meant some of the costs of implementation of the proposals, if they were accepted by the two Garda associations, would depend on the amount of overtime worked in any year.

She added: “That said, I am advised that, depending on a number of variables, the estimated gross annual cost of implementing the Labour Court recommendation could exceed €50m.”

The Tánaiste added: “However, this gross cost will be offset by statutory deductions for tax, PRSI, etc, which will reduce the net exchequer cost.”

But officials in the Department of Justice are already thought to be examining where money could be diverted to help pay the cost.

The department received an increase of €85m in Budget 2017, to €2.54bn, including an increase in Garda funding of €28m, to €1.58bn.

The Garda budget involves a €19m rise in salaries, to pay for new graduates and new students.

The justice minister has announced there will be 3,200 gardaí recruited over the next four years — or roughly 800 per year. Senior garda sources said it would be “suicidal” for the Government if they pulled back on that commitment. But some sources have expressed concern the Garda overtime bill could be an easy target.

“It shouldn’t be and it would be totally counter-productive,” said one source.

“Look at the overtime that has gone into the Kinahan feud. That has been very successful, in the amount of attempted murders we have prevented.

“If the Government cut that they could pay a heavy price.”

Some €71.5m was allocated in Budget 2017 for Garda overtime, a significant drop on this year, where the bill has come to €123m.

But €55m of this was additional funding during the year as a result of the feud — €5m in February and €50m in June. Some €15m to €20m came from savings within the Department.

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